Has your writing ground to a halt due to lack of inspiration or motivation?
Have the creative juices stopped flowing, as everything else drains your time and attention?
You're not alone. Even the most prolific fiction writers occasionally get hit with a writing slump.
If you’ve ever tried to write a novel, you likely know what that feels like. You’re rolling along, churning out page after page, and then BAM! Suddenly you’re stuck. You can’t get a decent sentence or paragraph on the page for anything.
Sometimes you don't even feel like trying, so you give up.
Writing slumps are often temporary, lasting for a few days or less. Such as when they're related to something personal that comes up in your life, and you have trouble focusing momentarily. As soon as the personal problem goes away so does the writing slump.
Other times, though, it’s way more complicated than that. It’s hard to shake the slump, and the longer it lasts the deeper you sink into it. This is what many people refer to as the dreaded WRITER'S BLOCK. Yes, it happens, and for many reasons, both internal and external.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can shake writer's block, but you must be proactive when it hits. You can’t simply wait around for some kind of divine intervention. You have to TAKE ACTION to get unstuck or unblocked. And I’m a firm believer that if you take action early it’s far easier to cope.
Below are 10 TIPS that will help you deal with writing slumps. Some you can use while writing your novel to try and avoid getting stuck in the first place. Others are quick fixes to pull you out when you first become stuck. As I said before, the sooner you try to do something about it the easier it is to fix. The last few tips are long-term remedies that you go to when you get really stuck and the quick fixes won’t do the trick.
1. Promise to treat yourself to your favorite food after a day of writing, to keep yourself motivated. For me this would be a few pieces of gourmet chocolate such as Godiva or L.A. Burdick. Or maybe some chips. Don’t overdo this or you'll regret it next time you step on a scale.
2. Write first thing in the morning before breakfast, before you turn on your laptop or iPad, before the phone starts ringing, and before everyone else in the household gets up. Maybe even before the sun comes up. The key is to beat the distractions that crop up during the day and halt your writing progress.
When I wrote my first novel, I would get up at 5 a.m. and write for two hours before getting ready for work. It was just me and my hot cup of coffee before dawn, and I got a whole lot of writing done.
3. Take a long, hot shower before writing. I do some of my best thinking in the shower as I let the water run down my back. There’s something about the sound and sensation of pulsating water that sends my mind off to never-never land.
A student once said she found water-proof writing paper that she takes into the shower with her to jot down notes. Fantastic idea! Try AQUA NOTES Water Proof Note Pad, which you can find on Amazon. I haven’t tried it yet, but it has gotten good reviews.
4. Instead of a power nap, take a creative nap. How does that work? Before you drift off to sleep think about the part of your writing where you got stuck. Your mind will get to work while you’re sleeping and solve the problem.
If a nap doesn’t do the trick, try this at bedtime before drifting off to sleep. Yes, it really can work. When I do this, often I wake up and the solution pops into my head immediately or it will come to me while I’m tinkering with the coffee machine.
5. Go for a 20-minute walk. Alone. Avoid interaction with others. If you live where the neighbors will want to chat, drive yourself to a more secluded spot. My favorite place when I need this is a local park.
While walking do NOT think about your writing. Instead think happy, carefree thoughts about the blessings and good times in your life. It’s so easy to obsess about negative things, especially when we’re in our usual surroundings. Sometimes all we need is a change of scenery to get our creative juices flowing again.
6. Read nonfiction books about writing. These can be inspirational books for writers or other creative types or books on writing techniques. This often gets the writing wheels churning again, and you find yourself itching to get back to work.
7. Try MIND MAPPING. In the center of a blank page write a a few words describing the scene or character or whatever you’re stuck on and draw a circle around it. Then let your thoughts wander, adding whatever comes to mind, with branches and more circles.
This allows you to think freely without the confines or structure of thinking in sentences or paragraphs or trying to follow your outline. There are lots of websites and books on mind mapping as well as software and apps to use if you prefer to work electronically. One of my favorite tools for mind mapping is Scapple (by the makers of Scrivener). It's like a mind mapping tool on steroids. Google it. You can download a free trial.
8. Think of a positive influence in your life. It can be a person, place or thing. Write yourself an upbeat note about the subject. Again, sometimes negative thoughts get in our way and we need to remind ourselves of our blessings.
9. Learn or do something new, something you’ve never done before. This is a long-term solution to get your brain out of a deep rut and really shake things up. Learning something new rewires your brain and helps you to see things differently. Some ideas: take dancing or cooking lessons, take up sketching, enroll in a yoga or meditation class.
10. If nothing from above works, you might need to take a long break from writing. But don’t just stop writing and keep doing the same old things you always do day after day. That won’t fix anything. You know that saying: You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.
Get away. Far away. Go visit family or friends out of town for a few days. Do a weekend getaway alone or with someone you enjoy traveling with. Stay alone in a hotel room across town for a few weekends in a row. Stay for a full week if you can manage. While there, pamper yourself with room service, spa treatments and long, hot baths.
Many of these activities may seem hard to take up for one reason or another, especially the last two. STOP telling yourself “no.” Honestly, what it comes down to is how much you REALLY want to write that novel.
One more suggestion: If you aren't already a member of Inspired Writers, my Facebook group exclusively for writers, join us. It's a lively group full of authors and aspiring authors just like you who are there to inspire and motivate each other. To join us, click here.
You’re flying along churning out page after page of your novel, when suddenly you find yourself stuck like lint to a lint brush. No matter how much you try, you can’t shake yourself loose. You can’t get a decent thought on the page for anything. Eventually you give up trying. You’re frustrated, puzzled, worried. What the heck is going on here?
Some call it writer’s block. Others believe there is no such thing. I won’t argue about terminology or definitions. I will say this: wherever you fall on the writer’s block belief spectrum, if you write long and hard enough you will eventually hit a slump. It may be a long one or a short one. But when it happens, the worst thing you can possibly do is hope it will soon go away on its own. No, my dear writer. The longer you let a writing slump linger, the harder it is to break free.
So get proactive. Below are 5 tips you can try to kick that pain in the ass. But here’s the thing. They won’t work unless you actually try them.
You can find several more tips like these in my free writing guide 10 Tips to Inspire the Fiction Writer Within by CLICKING HERE.
Where do you write? I get asked this question a lot. It used to puzzle the heck out of me since it was something I never gave much thought to when I wrote my first few novels. I lived alone and had an office in my house. I simply sat down at my desk and wrote. What was the big deal about finding a place to write? I wondered.
Fast forward a few books and several years. I was married with young kids. Suddenly the question—Where do you write?—didn’t seem so trivial. Finding a place to write in private with no interruptions for even a few hours at a time could be a real challenge. I knew I had to make some changes.
I am now far more proactive–often even uncompromising–about protecting and preserving my time and space to write. I go in my office, shut the door, and hang a hot pink DO NOT DISTURB sign. When the children were younger I would tell them to knock only if their lives were in danger.
Privacy is everything when you're writing regardless of where you are in your career. In his book On Writing, Stephen King says that he wrote his first novels on the porch of a rented house and in the laundry room of a trailer where he and his wife lived.
Some established authors rent office space outside their homes. They say it's the only way to ensure solitude for any real length of time. It also forces them to be more disciplined about their writing schedules if they have to get up and go to an office. Some writers go as far as to get hotel rooms to get away from it all. I once rented an apartment across town for six months.
There are no rules here, no magic formulas. Get creative. Do whatever you have to in order to get the job done. And don’t feel guilty about it.
More writing tips like these can be found in my writing guide 10 Tips to Inspire Fiction Writers. To download it CLICK HERE.